How To Move from Photography to Cinematography by Xavier Burgin

During my time as an undergraduate in college, I used my skills as a photographer to garner extra revenue whenever possible. This revenue would flow back into my main area of expertise and passion, film. The skill set of a photographer is quite invaluable on a film set. A creative eye for positioning, shot placement, lighting, lenses, and filters is essential when creating the atmosphere of a film, yet there must be something more within an individual than just the superb skill set of a photographer.

Now, as a graduate student at The University of Southern California (USC), I'm pursuing my fascination of film through the lens of photography's counterpart within the industry. This is known as cinematography. A photographer and cinematographer share many similarities, yet their necessary skills starkly contrast upon further investigation. A photographer may not be a strong cinematographer, but a good cinematographer must always be a strong photographer. In this article I'll provide you with a few tips on how to use your photography skills to develop your cinematography skills.

1. Your Artistic Eye Must Move

When I direct, I tend to shy away from working other important positions. This led me to hire a cinematographer. He is known as the director of photography or DP on set. The DP is tasked with producing the visual aesthetic the director wants on screen. He manages this task by creating the desired lighting set up, supervising the grip/gaffer crew, and setting up the shot.

A Director of Photography must retain many of the familiar skills seen in strong photographers. Most importantly, his artistic eye must be able to compensate for movement. Unlike photographers, who tackle movement within a single shot, a cinematographer must create a strong visual aesthetic for periods of seconds or minutes. Actors will pivot, gesture, and if the scene demands it, move from one spot to another. A photographer transitioning into a cinematographer cannot see his role as capturing a photograph. Instead, he must consider himself capturing a scene. read more...

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